Funny is as funny does.
I’ve heard many times the greatest jokes reveal some truth. I agree, yet there’s more to it if you want to convey a message. For decades, I’ve been using jokes and funny stories to make a point in life, classrooms, and business.
Here’s how you can do the same.
Collect Jokes and Joke Books
I’ve got a huge collection of joke books. Many of them are out of print and must be found in used book stores in the humor section. Classic ones like Milton Berle’s Joke File to Judy Brown’s series of books quoting famous comedian.
I set a joke book in my restroom and when I take a moment, I read a few jokes in passing. Just using this method, I’ve read dozens of joke books. The idea is to have joke books around to read at any spare time. You’ll need to read hundreds of jokes to find the ones whic
Do your jokes snap like a rubber band?
To get an audience to think or to respond are two very different functions for creating a setup and punch. Most funny speakers never make this distinction when constructing setup and punch material and performing. I propose that for a joke to be most effective, a setup should cause the audience to think, and the punch should elicit from the audience an instant respond.
To get the audience to think and then respond is much like someone aiming a rubber band at someone’s arm. This causes the person being aimed at to think about the impending result, which creates tension. When the rubber band is released, the impact causes an instant response. Just like a good setup and punch.
With one-liners, the function of the setup is to get the audience to think. For instance, when the
Tag it or bag it.
One of the most important and powerful comedy secret in a comedian’s arsenal to get laughs is the Tag. A tag is punch after a punch without a new setup. For instance this Jerry Seinfeld joke:
Setup: “Bozo the Clown. Do we really need ‘the Clown’? Are we going to confuse him with…”
Punch: “Bozo the Tax Attorney?”
Tag1: “Bozo the Pope?”
Notice how Seinfeld created a clear Setup and Punch, and then added another Punch that didn’t require a new Setup. By not using a new Setup, he was able to get two laughs off the original Setup. This is how Tags work.
This comedy secret doesn’t have to stop there. When doing story telling comedy, the story is the through line of the routine, but it can be constructed with a Setup, Punch,
Can everyone really learn to be funnier?
I’m constantly asked, “How do you teach comedy?” The answer to that would be a novella. So, I’ll just focus on one aspect of my process for teaching comedy technique as a series of skills. That’s right…skills. Skills allow students to practice and apply any comedy technique to their own sense of humor. This keeps the teacher’s sense of humor out of the process and gives tools to the students to develop their individual comic voice.
Over the last thirty-five years, I’ve developed a process for identifying and teaching the comedy techniques used by great comedy writers and professional funny people.
My process is based on these three steps.
Identify the Comedy Technique
Create a Practicable Exe
Where are the fundamentals of comedy?
When I first got into teaching stand-up comedy, I quickly realized there were no organized fundamentals of comedy for teaching joke writing and being funny. Every other field had established fundamentals and even different schools of thought about them. For instance, sports, acting, cooking, writing, dancing, art, and music could be learned through mastering the fundamental skills of its corresponding field.
Where were the fundamentals of comedy for joke writing and being funny in front of an audience?
At the time, there were several books which offered some help. They gave advice or examples of what the author did to be funny, but nothing was presenting a clear unified series of the fundamentals for comedy.
I wondered if they even existed. Yet, I’d watch comedians get funnier year afte
Go from a night of horror to just a nightmare.
Open mics are one the most important and distressing periods all fledgling comedians go through. It’s important because comedians need to learn to get over their fear of bombing, deal with the lights, handle being ignored, face abject failure, cope with their anger, all in the quest to learn to be funny.
If that didn’t discourage you, this will. Open mics are equally distressing. The comics running them often don’t care about anything, but their own stage time. They’re held in loud bars with drunken hecklers or in empty coffee houses. The audience is usually other comics working on their material while waiting to go up. There’s no front row because the comics sit as far from the stage as they can. And the regular customers are having loud personal conversations without any regard for the performers.
WTF = Write The Funny
There are several writing tip professional comedians know that can punch up a show. They have certain cues within a show or script and are easy to implement.
Wrting Tips 1: Use “K” Words
The hard consonant sounds, especially “K,” which include hard “C” and “Qu” and, to a lesser extent, “T”, “P”, hard “G”, “D” and “B,” tend to be funnier. Using words with hard consonants, instead of synonyms with softer sounds can really improve a joke.
Yes, I’m perfectly aware that this seems a little silly, but it happens to be true. Most comics who’ve been in the business long enough will tell you the same thing.
“Words with a “K” in them are funny.” - Neil Simon
This course is a gift to my readers. Thank you.
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Can you get to where you’re going?
We’ve all familiar with the saying, “Climbing the ladder of success.” But what if you have a ladder of failure? Or as I call it a “ladder of fuccess.”
As a comedy teacher I’ve dealt with many dysfunctional ladders which didn’t fit the person’s ambitions of becoming a professional funny person. So here’s a chance for you to evaluate your ladder to determine if you’re climbing a ladder success or fuccess.
Here are several kinds of ladders:
This is a very tall ladder, but it only has two rungs. The top rung is perfection and the bottom rung is failure. Since you’ll never achieve perfection, you’ll always feel
Jokes without shared knowledge.
If the audience doesn't understand what you’re talking about, they won’t laugh. When a certain word or reference is crucial to the understanding of a joke, you must consider whether it’s familiar to your audience. Sometimes you’ll need to use a more familiar alternative.
For example, take this classic Woody Allen joke about his rabbi:
"He opened a discotheque with his colleagues. Topless rabbis. No skullcaps.”
Woody Allen, of course, knew the little round caps Jewish men wear are called yarmulkes. But since he was also aware some people in his audience wouldn’t know that word. So, he uses the word “skullcap,” which is self-explanatory.
If there’s a reference or information that’s crucial to your joke which is not in the common realm of knowledge and has no convenient alt